Manage Virtual Images Across the Complete Lifecycle with IBM Tivoli

Want the best ROI from virtualization? Optimize the way you manage virtual images.

Service Management in Action

Virtualization has transformed enterprise IT—and virtual images have made that transformation possible. This is why organizations, as they seek new ways to leverage virtualization for business value, will find that optimized workload image management—across the complete image lifecycle—will play a key role.

One particularly common problem it can help resolve: over time, as new virtual servers are required, virtual system images tend to increase considerably in number. This proliferation can create a situation of "image sprawl" that multiplies the operational costs and management challenges.

If virtualization is really going to optimize IT operations in the intended way, it's essential for IT to know which virtual images are deployed on which virtual servers, the applications and services they're associated with, the logical elements included with virtual images, and many other aspects. But keeping track of this information is no simple matter, and the more images that are created, the harder that task becomes.

The eventual result? Many unwanted consequences such as compliance failures; violations of security policies; service, system, or application downtime; diminished productivity from internal workers; and worst of all, reduced revenues and satisfaction levels from customers, in the case of external services.

Optimized workload image management can help address emerging complexities

"If virtualization is really going to optimize IT operations in the intended way, it's essential for IT to know which virtual images are deployed on which virtual servers, the applications and services they're associated with, the logical elements included with virtual images, and many other aspects. But keeping track of this information is no simple matter, and the more images that are created, the harder that task becomes."

Today’s virtualized architectures represent another major wrinkle to consider. Currently, for instance, many organizations are deploying composite virtual images—essentially, collections of images that support a single logical function. A multi-tier application, for instance, will commonly involve multiple images running on multiple virtual servers. Optimized management of that application over time, or recreation of it in another context, means that IT should be able to treat it as a single logical entity—despite the reality that there are multiple images involved.

The alternative, manually addressing each of the virtual images in sequence, is slower, more costly, and more likely to introduce unwanted errors. Unfortunately, this one-by-one approach is the only method supported by many current tools, which treat images as isolated entities and do not acknowledge or reflect the logical connections between them—let alone allow IT to manage them in a unified way.

Other complexities come into play in the case of cloud computing. Clouds, the leading edge of virtual architectures, require a new approach to workload image management to fulfill the cloud's promise of exceptional performance through deep automation. Clouds dynamically create and provision virtual servers from images, based on business policies, scripts, or other automated mechanisms, to address unpredictable demand levels or requirements. This means that clouds demand sophisticated workload image management solutions capable of addressing every stage of the image lifecycle, with as little direct IT oversight required as possible.

IBM Tivoli solutions fulfill and optimize all three stages of the virtual image lifecycle

No IT solution provider is as well positioned as IBM to help organizations address these complexities. IBM offers a wealth of best-in-class solutions that can be combined in a modular fashion to fulfill workload image management functions throughout the IT infrastructure, whenever and however they're required, driving down operational costs and driving up service levels as a result.

Specifically, by addressing the three basic stages of the image lifecycle—build, manage, and deploy—in an intelligent and deeply automated manner, IBM solutions can empower IT to get more business value from virtualization than ever before.

Build images easily and consistently

The first stage—building system images—involves creating a specific combination of operating system, middleware, applications, or other necessary resources, and then generating a binary snapshot of it.

An excellent solution for this key task: IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager (TPM) 7.2, the flagship member of the larger TPM family. This foundational offering supports a wide variety of operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, many flavors of Linux, Sun Solaris, and IBM's own AIX (UNIX), and, as a result, is well suited to practically any hardware or OS platform currently used by enterprise IT today. In every case, system images can quickly, efficiently, and easily be created and stored in an image repository, as well as cataloged and managed via an associated image library.

Furthermore, TPM allows tailored images, based on the originals, to be created "on the fly" for specific business purposes or hardware configurations via dynamic injection of new elements, such as drivers or data files. This flexible design and broad platform support gives IT a single, centralized way to create and archive any number of system images—a single point of command, dramatically simplifying the management challenge.

For even more flexibility in image creation, another powerful IBM offering is the newly released IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool. This tool pursues a modular approach to image creation, based on component groups such as operating systems or applications. Once created, components are combined dynamically to create a new image as needed for any given purpose. Image builders simply specify the combination of components they need, and the tool does the work of image creation.

This design delivers many impressive benefits. For instance, image sprawl is significantly mitigated because instead of an ever-growing image library of fixed images to manage, there is a smaller library of components—roughly analogous to a table of elements, out of which any number of compounds can be created on demand.

Application-centric workload image management is also enhanced in this way. Increasingly, organizations require specifically tailored images to fulfill the requirements of specific applications; via the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool, those tailored images are easier to create than ever before. That means applications run in a more optimized environment, and the services they drive perform at higher levels.

The tool also empowers IT team members to specialize in different component groups. For example, one team member might focus on operating systems, another on applications, and a third on image building per se. They can act independently of each other, knowing the generated images will work perfectly, because the IBM tool allows them to combine their expertise—not just the components—in a modular way.

Manage images centrally and cost-effectively

In the second stage of the image lifecycle, Manage, the focus shifts to how virtual images can be changed over time, as well as how they relate logically to one another. Suppose, for instance, that a given image requires an update such as a patch to address compliance or security requirements. It's essential that workload image management tools support that update process.

Here, too, TPM provides a centralized, optimized way to fulfill operational goals. TPM includes a component called Federated Image Library; as its name suggests, this delivers a federated overview of all images, regardless of where they're stored, including both IBM and non-IBM repositories. This interface gives IT an easy way to make any necessary management changes to images, wherever they are, in an offline fashion for exceptionally rapid modification. Deduplication functions can also help reduce the problem of image sprawl by identifying and eliminating images that are logically identical to each other.

Organizations that have made the leap to cloud computing will require a way to manage images in a cloud-savvy manner to support secure, dynamically-created, cloud-hosted services. For them, one great solution is IBM Tivoli Service Automation Manager (TSAM), which includes a suite of integrated management functions that can leverage TPM to address the complete lifecycle of cloud-based services of all kinds. TSAM can integrate with the TPM family to ensure that virtual servers are provisioned with exactly the right images as determined or informed by best practices, business policies, or changing workload levels.

Also well suited for cloud-based Java applications is IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. This is a turnkey offering that can rapidly and consistently generate optimized application environments based on combinations of virtual images needed by cloud applications, such as images for IBM's DB2 database or IBM WebSphere virtual application servers.

Deploy images throughout the infrastructure on demand

The third stage of the image lifecycle, Deploy, involves actually taking images from the repository, adding data or other elements as needed, deploying them into virtual servers, and making necessary specific adjustments such as the IP address or port number for the new server.

Subsequently, it's important that as modifications of golden master images occur, such as security patches, they can quickly and accurately be distributed to servers based on that image, wherever they may be in the infrastructure.

Two IBM Tivoli solutions can work hand-in-hand to accomplish these goals. TPM, of course, allows images to be created or captured anywhere in the infrastructure; it also supports provisioning of images to any target system, even bare-metal systems that don't yet have an OS at all. Also IBM Tivoli Endpoint Manager for Lifecycle Management can play a key role by giving IT managers a straightforward patching method that can be applied to any system or endpoint.

Together, these two solutions thus provide comprehensive deployment or modification of any system images, across the complete architecture, whether systems are virtualized or not.

Enhanced workload image management means impressive business outcomes

As you might imagine, the business ramifications of optimized image management over the full lifecycle are extensive—and easily documented. In one particular case, for instance, a leading provider of retirement and insurance products and services used these and related IBM solutions to dramatically simplify its IT operations and infrastructure.

How dramatically? Try this on for size: sixteen traditional data centers were consolidated into two virtualized data centers using a cloud service delivery model. To a significant extent, this consolidation was made possible by simplified, accelerated, and automated image management provided by IBM Tivoli solutions.

And organizations interested in achieving truly best-in-class service management will find IBM’s value proposition for technical infrastructures extends far beyond image management. IBM solutions can be combined modularly to create a tailored architecture capable of addressing any IT initiative—or all of them—including security, high availability, status/asset monitoring, data management through tailored backup/archiving, and many others.

Working together, IBM solutions can thus deliver higher service levels, faster response time to service problems, faster service rollout, and reduced costs and business risks—an excellent recipe for business success in almost any context.

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